Inside the Time Impact Dinner: The Closers With Issa Rae, Cory Booker and More

Time hosted a dinner on Thursday night in celebration of its newest annual list, “The Closers.”

The list, featured in its most recent print issue, highlights 18 leaders in politics, entertainment, fashion, athletics and other fields working to close the racial wealth gap. Inaugural “Closers” in attendance included Issa Rae, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Aurora James, John Hope Bryant, Angelica Ross and Imani Ellis, along with additional guests like Tierra Whack, Arianna Huffington and Hill Harper.

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During cocktail hour, Booker gamely posed for selfies at the end of the red carpet before finding his seat next to Harper. The former “The Good Doctor” star is currently campaigning for the U.S. Senate seat in Michigan, reportedly with the encouragement of Booker. To date, there have been only 12 African American senators in U.S. history.

The joyous evening, hosted at the event space Second in Nomad and sponsored by Carol’s Daughter, kicked off with a toast of Pronghorn whiskey before the floor was yielded to the Closers.

Fifteen Percent Pledge founder and Brother Vellies designer Aurora James kicked off the evening’s speeches, telling the crowd that her initiative is in the process of reallocating more than $14 billion of annual retail revenue to Black entrepreneurs.

“Every single day I have the privilege of talking to Black entrepreneurs that are changing the face of this country, and they’re able to do that because of the work of all of us in this room,” she said.

Booker — who returned from a trip to Nairobi earlier in the day — spoke to the crowd about the impact of mass incarceration.

“I remember going to work on this issue in college and feeling like it was so insurmountable,” said Booker. “Over the last 10 years, the Black incarceration rate in the United States of America has been cut in half. Black men are now more likely to graduate from college than to go to prison — which was the reverse just a decade ago,” he continued. “For all of us here who are really focused on closing the Black-white wealth gap, I give the example of mass incarceration to say that this is not an implacable wall. This is not an impossibility. We can, when we focus and do the hard work, show results.”

He ended his speech by quoting a passage from James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time.”

“I’m gonna do my best to quote it verbatim. He says, ‘I know what I’m asking you is impossible. But in today’s day and age, as in every day and age, the impossible is the least we can demand.’”

Actress Angelica Ross, who founded TransTech Social Enterprises (and recently launched a podcast, “NOW — No Opportunity Wasted”) spoke to the impact of creating a sanctuary for LGBTQIA+ talent.

“With a special focus on economically empowering our transgender siblings, we built a co-working, co-learning community that uplifts and empowers through practical career-ready skills,” she said. “My life mission is to empower every individual, especially those within the Black and brown, queer and trans communities, to resist any narrative that paints them as disposable, and to instill in them a deep-seated belief in their inherent worth,” she added. “Sometimes when it comes to queer and trans folks, it’s revolutionary just to have a dream and to participate in the arts.”

Rae, the issue’s cover face, closed out the evening. “I read all of your guys’ stories and I was like, ‘why’d they put me on the cover?’ But if it helps, if people see me and it helps to shine a light on your stories, then I serve my purpose.

“When I was younger, I had the audacity to think that I could change the world. I was just like, ‘people just need to do better by each other. If enough people care to change something, then it’ll change,’” she added. “Reading about all of the work that you guys are doing in this room, it makes me recognize what’s possible. And I’m truly grateful to be surrounded by people who want to do better by one another.”

Issa Rae
Issa Rae

Launch Gallery: Issa Rae, Cory Booker, and Tierra Whack at the Time's The Closers Event

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